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4 Common Spinal Injuries from Auto Accidents

According to the Mayo Clinic, car accidents are responsible for over 35 percent of all spinal cord injuries.

The spine is particularly vulnerable in the event of a crash, however, these injuries are often difficult to notice until hours or even days after a crash.

Spinal cord injuries are, of course, extremely serious in nature, and can result in permanent disabilities. The victim may be left paralyzed for life and may have to depend on others even for basic activities.

Four common spinal injuries in car accidents


It is not uncommon for victims of rear-end collisions to suffer whiplash. The force of the impact can jerk your head forward and backward violently. In the event of a front end collision, this movement is usually prevented by the headrest. The symptoms of whiplash usually become evident within 24 hours of the injury, and may include:

Spine Fractures

Car accident victims often sustain compression fractures in the lower and middle back. In case the impact of the crash throws the upper body forward, while the seatbelt holds the lower body in place, it can pull apart the vertebrae and even severe the spinal cord.

When someone suffers a back injury in a car crash, you generally shouldn’t move the patient. Wait for the paramedics to arrive. They will secure the patient with a neck collar and backboard before transporting him/her to the hospital. When a person suffers a spine fracture, he/she will experience intense pain that becomes worse with movement. Some other symptoms include:

  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • Tingling
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

Herniated Disc

The spinal discs act as shock absorbers. In a car crash, these discs can herniate. Even a small crack on the outside of the disc can cause the soft center to push through and put pressure on the surrounding nerves. Depending on the location of the herniated disc, the crash victim may notice arm or leg pain, and numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in the affected areas.


This condition happens when a stress fracture pushes a vertebra out of position. This bones can then press on the nerves and narrow the spinal column causing pain and numbness. It can also make walking difficult, and cause weakness in the buttock or legs. While some people may not experience any symptoms, others may continue to have problems even years after the crash.

Free Consultation with a St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer

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Updated: April 4, 2024